A special hello to my fellow readers.
Today I have another great interview for you and this time it was author Dean Mayes who sat down and answered a few questions for me : )
Read on to get the entire scoop.
Please meet the author of The Hambledown Dream.
About the author:
Born in country Victoria, Australia, Dean grew up with an early love of words – a trait a little out of step for most children of his age. His creative streak was inspired by his third grade teacher, Mrs. Furnell, who challenged him in his creative writing exercises which he initially “sucked at”. After producing a surprisingly poignant piece about a soldier’s experience of war (based on his grandfather), Dean received his first writing award – a Purple Dragon sticker.
The genesis for what has become his first published novel came in 2008 Dean started an internet blog and decided to craft a story ‘on the fly’ with no bells or whistles and put it up in installments each week. He would announce a new edition on Facebook and Twitter and let anybody who wanted to read it.
A funny thing happened. Dean suddenly found himself with a dedicated readership – a following who would ‘tune in’ each week to see more of this unfolding story – a fable about a struggling young drug addict with a brilliant gift for the guitar, who is rescued from a near fatal overdose in urban Chicago. Meanwhile, a beautiful young lawyer is trying to rebuild her life in Southern Australia following the death of the love of her life – a promising architect…who also has a gift for classical guitar.
People began asking when the next installment was coming, telling him how hooked they were on the story, encouraging Dean to keep writing. And out of all these new found fan messages came one in particular. It was a message of encouragement, but one that also invited Dean to have a look at Central Avenue Publishing of Vancouver. After talking with CAP’s creative director Michelle Halket, Dean became very serious about his project. He stopped publishing it to the blog and began constructing the manuscript, stealing time whenever he could to work on the story on any medium he could – his computer, smart phone, pieces of paper, even shopping dockets.
Within a few short months the manuscript for the renamed “The Hambledown Dream” was completed and by 2010 the edited work was submitted. Within a week, Dean received a notice of acceptance, confirming that his first novel – The Hambledown Dream – would be published.
Dean lives in Adelaide with his partner Emily, their two children Xavier and Lucy and Dean’s cattle dog Simon. He is currently working on his second novel which carries the working title “Gifts Of The Peramangk” which he hopes to release in mid-2012.
About the book:
Australian, Denny Banister had the world at his feet; a successful career, a passion for the guitar and he is in love with Sonya – his best friend and soul mate. Tragically, Denny is struck down with inoperable cancer & he is destined to die.
Meanwhile, Andy DeVries has almost nothing; he is alienated from his family, he moves through a dangerous Chicago underworld dealing in drugs, battling addiction. Now he’s gone and overdosed – jeopardizing the only thing that matters to him; a place at a prestigious Conservatory for classical guitar.
Having been snatched from the abyss Andy recovers, but he is plagued by dreams – memories of a love he has never felt, and a life he’s never lived. Driven by the need for redemption and by the love for a woman he’s never met, Andy begins a quest to find her, knowing her only by the memories of a stranger and the dreams of a place called Hambledown…
You can buy a copy of The Hambledown Dream here:
Dean was nice enough to answer a few questions I tossed his way and here’s what he had to say,
1) What inspired you to write your first book?
For several years I’d been trying to produce a Bourne Identity styled political thriller with a sci-fi bent to it. I was convinced that was the genre I wanted to write in but, for a number of reasons, I just could not make it work. I was fresh out of University, was trying to establish my career and writing was this great love that I tried to slot in between the spaces in my life. All the while, I had this idea for a totally different novel that was based on a simple premise – what if a good and kind man fell ill and died and was somehow brought back in the body of someone who is duplicitous and mean? I wrestled with the idea for years until I got to a point where I’d virtually given up on ever being a published author. So, instead, I started a blog and began publishing that story there in weekly installments. All of a sudden, the momentum – and the audience – I was searching for suddenly took hold and a lot of great things happened as a result.
2) Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m definitely a pantser. My style is to start with a basic skeleton where I loosely map out a plot with really basic milestones that I want to reach and then I just delve into the writing. I experiment with a lot of ideas and I allow the characters I create to drive much of the story as well as my writing. I discover a lot of things in the process which I find much more satisfying because it doesn’t lock me into a set of per-determined requirements. It becomes a much more organic experience. So long as I reach those basic milestones, I don’t mind so much how I get there.
3) How did you come up with the title?
The name ‘Hambledown’ came to me when I’d actually finished the manuscript for The Hambledown Dream. Right throughout the writing process, I had referred to the titular town in the story as Stafford, but I was never totally given over to it. I remember sitting on the balcony of my in-laws holiday house on Kangaroo Island and I was just playing around with names and Hambledown came to me as one possibility (I think it might have started out as Hambledon). It sounded right to me and so I rejigged the title from “Dreams Of A Love Indestructible” – which sounded way too ‘Mills & Boon’ and I simplified it to “The Hambledown Dream”. It’s a much more whimsical title that captures the essence as well as the place of the story.
4) Are any of the experiences in your novel based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are many experiences in the novel that are derivative of my own life experience – except maybe for the dying part. I haven’t cracked that nut yet – thankfully. I think that “The Hambledown Dream” is, in part, a metaphor for the constant quest for reaching a state of grace – something that is a common quest in all of us.
5) What books have most influenced your life most?
One of my favorite books ever is “The True History of The Elephant Man” by Michael Powell and Peter Ford. Their well researched and courageous account of Joesph Merrick really opened my eyes to the human spirit at its most gracious under the most extreme adversity. I regard Joseph Merrick as a personal hero of mine.
6) What book are you reading now?
“No Room For Secrets” by British actress Joanna Lumley (of Ab-Fab fame). It’s an autobiographical account of her life – from her childhood in Kashmir and Malaya, to her career as a model and actress during London’s swinging 60’s and through to her wonderfully documentary work in places like Eritrea, Borneo and more recently in Greece. I think I am seriously in love with that lady.
7) Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I count Seattle-based author Molly Ringle and Coloradan author R.S. Guthrie among my most favorite authors – both of whom write in vastly different genres, but who both craft compelling stories and characters who draw me in and hold me in their grasp from the very first page. And I have to add here that both authors have been wonderfully supportive of me of the past couple of years as I endeavor to raise my profile as an author.
8) What are your current projects?
My publisher (Central Avenue Publishing) and I are working on the edits to my forth coming novel “Gifts Of The Peramangk” which is due for release in Quarter 4 of this year. Gifts Of The Peramangk tells the story of an eight year old Aboriginal girl named Ruby, who lives in abject poverty in Adelaide’s (Australia) destitute suburbs. Ruby has a gift; she is an undiscovered violin prodigy who has been taught by her ailing grandmother Virginia who, herself, was taught to play during one of the most divisive periods of Australia’s modern history – the so-called “White Australia Policy”. In an environment of crushing poverty, deep seeded racism and appalling domestic violence, the future for Ruby seems grim. However Ruby’s ‘gift’ is about to be discovered and the ramifications of her discovery will change the lives of both herself and those around her forever.
I’m excited by this project because it has been extremely challenging and a lot of people told me that it couldn’t be done – a white male author telling the story of an Aboriginal girl. But I have had some critical support from people associated with the Peramangk culture and they have guided me in telling a story that is sensitive, whilst being confronting but also ultimately, uplifting.
9) Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My publisher, Central Avenue and Michelle Halket, its creative director have been my biggest support outside of my family. When Michelle signed me back in 2010, I couldn’t believe that my long-held dream of being published was to come true. But more than that, I couldn’t have foreseen just how collaborative and supportive the C.A.P. environment actually is – and this is despite my locale here in Australia. Michelle and I have conducted countless meetings and conferences via video chat, in addition to electronic lines of communication. They have been hugely productive meetings and Michelle is never more than a few hours away in answering emails, so it really has been just like meeting face to face. The only thing missing has been the coffee per se. With my current project, I have had the invaluable assistance of both Michelle, her editing team and another C.A.P. author, Molly Ringle. We’ve been able to accomplish so much together in refining my work and I am so grateful for their guidance and counsel.
10) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
With respect to The Hambledown Dream, I often ruminate over whether I should have toned down some of the language in the story as well as a couple of fairly graphic sex scenes that feature early on in the story. I know that it was confronting for some readers and they said as much in their feedback and reviews of the book. But one conversation I had about it, I had with my grandmother – who is in her late 80’s. She of all my readers was the one I was most concerned for but, you know something – she got it. She totally got the context I was trying to achieve in crafting the story and as a result, she has become one of my most ardent supporters.
11) Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I can actually. Over at the “Articles and Short Stories” section of my official website, readers can view a series of ‘work in progress pieces’ for “Gifts Of The Peramangk” which I posted in their unrefined form during the writing process. Though they are pretty rough, they are designed to give readers an impression of my writing style and characterizations so I highly recommend readers visit and please do, offer me feedback. I really appreciate that dialogue with visitors to my site.
12) Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’ve often said that dialogue has been one really challenging aspect of my writing and I’ve also felt it was my weakest suit. I spend a great deal of time in my day-to-day interactions with people, really studying their conversations, their mannerisms within the confines of those conversations. It’s a hazardous research tool because I end up resembling the “Close Talker” from Seinfeld – invading peoples personal space – and it’s amazing to me that I haven’t received a punch in the nose.
13) Who designed the covers?
The print edition of “The Hambledown Dream” features photography by a dear friend of mine, Melissa Alexander who is a formidable talent with the camera. We shot the cover at like, 6 in the morning on the beach here in Adelaide and we really were proud with what we achieved. The design team at C.A.P. rounded out the cover design with some wonderfully subtle text and font work which I adore. And, to highlight their collaborative ethos, I always had final approval on the design. When we re-designed “Hambledowns” cover for the digital edition, I worked with C.A.P. directly on the design which we decided to retool to emphasize the guitar, which is a prominent subtext in the novel. For “Gifts Of The Peramangk”, I have again worked directly with C.A.P. to produce the cover design which I am really pleased with.
14) Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t be afraid of your individual style or let anyone tell you that it’s wrong. If you are a serious plotter then that it wonderful because it works for you. But, likewise, if you are a pantser like me, revel in that as well. I encounter a lot of writers who are in conflict with their styles and they get themselves caught up in feeling guilty. Let that go and just embrace what you do – because what you do is wonderful. The only other thing I would say is – have a journal that you can write in aside from your laptop or computer. I have a leather journal that my wife gave me and I use it to brainstorm, play around with ideas and characters and just write all sorts of random stuff. And I only ever write in it with a lead pencil – never a pen!
15) Do you have a song that you’d consider the theme for your novel?
“Home” by UK band ‘Zero 7’ has been crowned the “official” theme tune to “The Hambledown Dream”. It typifies – both in mood and lyrics – the “feel” of the novel and it is one of my favorite songs. There was actually quite a lot of music featured in the story and I created a musical companion to the book which readers can find at my website.
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Thank you Dean Mayes for agreeing to be a guest on my blog. I enjoyed reading about your book and the interview very much.